Posted in relationships, Uncategorized

Racism isn’t reserved for the old anymore

On the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, just hours after it had been announced that the UK had voted in favour of leaving the European Union, 60 civil servants had gathered at the Treasury to listen to an important talk.

Westminster, still stunned by the UK’s decision to change the course of history, congregated to listen to Carol Dweck – a psychologist who has become famous for her ‘growth mindset’ theory.

The growth mindset theory is a general belief that one can improve oneself through effort.

Ms Dweck believes there are two different outlooks to learning; a fixed mindset that intelligence and a person’s capabilities are fixed, determined by nature and, therefore, cannot be changed; and a growth mindset in which intelligence and capabilities can change, through effort and hard work.

“Events like the Brexit vote make the need for schools to instil a growth mindset in their pupils more important than ever,”[1] she said.

“Because of the results of the referendum, I framed the talk [to civil servants] in terms of what education needs to do to prepare young people for the jobs of the future. The formerly content majority are legitimately worried about the jobs of the future because many of the standard jobs [such as] factory jobs, mining jobs and construction jobs are disappearing.” (Kaye Wiggins, para. 7).

The growth mindset theory is the belief that the ability to solve problems should be taught at school by building lessons around relevant social issues. Subjects such as maths and verbal skills should be integrated into a context where pupils understand their relevance to solving important problems.

growth
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Post-Brexit, it is clear that Ms Dweck does not stand alone on her views that pupils, now more than ever, need to develop their mindset, as 37 headteachers, academics and educationists have written an open letter to the new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, calling for a renewed commitment to citizenship lessons.

The letter asks Justine Greening to give increased emphasis to RE, and to personal, social and health education (PSHE).

It states: “The referendum has raised deep questions about identity and belonging for many young people, for which an increasingly narrow academic curriculum has left them ill-equipped.

“In addition to acquiring knowledge, young people need to successfully develop conflict-resolution, decision-making skills, self-regulations, self-respect, negotiation and respect for those with different beliefs and values.”[2]

Ms Dweck’s belief that problem solving should be taught at schools alongside core academic subjects is one solution which could tackle the aforementioned problems expected for the post-Brexit generation.

It is evident that schools need to find a way of fostering cohesion, as latest DfE figures show as many as 20 children per school day are excluded for racially abusing peers, which has been exacerbated since Brexit.

Around 1 in 10 cases, included derogatory racist statements, racist bullying or graffiti, and swearing that can be attributed to racist characteristics, took place in primary schools in 2014/15, according to the statistics, with the remainder in secondary schools.[3]

The New Schools Network, which advises groups opening free schools, said the true extent of racial abuse within schools is expected to be far higher; however, the figures only counted for incidents deemed serious enough for exclusion.

Chris Waller, Association for Citizenship Teaching Professional Officer, said the focus on immigration during the referendum campaign had left teachers dealing with a “backlash” in schools.

“The Vote Leave campaign predicated a lot of publicity around immigration and led last Friday morning to us getting phone calls and emails saying ‘Help, what do we do about this?’ from experienced teachers”[4], he said.

It can be argued that racism is connected to the fixed mindset. That racial prejudice is based upon assumptions about the ‘fixed’ traits of those who commit racist atrocities. One way to break this stranglehold could be to teach children that their identities and attitudes are not permanently fixed.

If children are unsure of their identities and to what community they belong to, then teaching them about the world, and incorporating RE and PSHE into the curriculum, could break down this barrier, allowing children to open their minds to a world that extends beyond their own.

The world is changing, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU highlights this. If we take Ms Dweck’s theory and practice it in schools, there ‘should’ be no reason why racism can’t be quashed as a result.

 

 

[1] Kaye Wiggins (2016) ‘Exclusive: Carol Dweck – ‘A growth mindset is even more important after Brexit’, <https://www.tes.com/news/tes-magazine/tes-magazine/a-growth-mindset-even-more-important-after-brexit> [Accessed: 8 August 2016]

[2] Adi Bloom (2016) ‘An open letter to Justine Greening: ‘post-Brexit, our pupils need citizenship lessons’’, <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/open-letter-justine-greening-post-brexit-our-pupils-need-citizenship> [Accessed: 9 August 2016]

[3] Julia Belgutay (2016) ‘Twenty children a day excluded for racial abuse, official figures show’ <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/twenty-children-a-day-excluded-racial-abuse-official-figures-show> [Accessed: 9 August 2016]

[4] Irena Barker (2016) ‘Teachers warn Nicky Morgan of racism in schools following Brexit vote’, <https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/teachers-warn-nicky-morgan-racism-schools-following-brexit-vote> [Accessed: 9 August 2016]

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